Netherlands Music
Concertgebouw Orchestra
Bernard Haitink
  • Jan van Gilse (1881 - 1944) : Funeral Music from the dramatic legend "Thijl"
  • Marius Flothuis (1914 - 2001) : Hymnus for soprano and large orchestra, Op. 67
    Erna Spoorenberg (Soprano)
  • Otto Ketting (b 1935) : Symphony No. 1
  • Willem Frederik Bon (1940 - 1983) : Le Printemp for soprano and orchestra
    Roberta Alexander (Soprano)
  • Kees Olthius (b 1940) : Theseus Fantasy

This is a clip from the Funeral Music to the Opera 'Thyl' by the Dutch composer Jan van Gilse, written between 1938 and 1940.
The performance presented here was given on the annual war commemoration day of 1995 in the New Church of Amsterdam by the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Bernard Haitink

It was not heard until 1976, when the first two acts were given a concert performance, followed, in 1980, by a staged performance at the Holland Festival.
There was some controversy as the author of the libretto, Hendrik Lindt, was a nazi collaborator during the war. This was felt the more uneasy as the composer, Jan van Gilse, had been a member of the resistance (as were his two young sons, Janric and Maarten, both in their early twenties, and who were captured and executed by the Germans).
Van Gilse was blacklisted by the nazis in the late 30s already since refusing Richard Strauss' offer to become head of the music section of the German Kulturkammer. This would have meant enhanced performance opportunities for his larger works, but the composer reacted: "I don't want my music played in a country where it is judged by its race instead of by its quality."

Forced to go into hiding at the beginning of the war he worried about the fate of his scores, documented at the Dutch Association of Musical Artists. Fortunately, its courageous librarian managed to transport them all into safety. The 6 large A-3 volumes comprising his magnum opus the opera 'Thyl' at one moment were even hidden inside the walls of the house of the composer Rudolf Escher.
Van Gilse would not live to see the end of the war and died in 1944.

The opera 'Thyl' is based on the late medieval legendary character of Thyl Uilenspiegel (or Eulenspiegel). In Van Gilse's rendering Thyl is a freedom fighter and rebel at the time of the 80-years war (1568-1648) against Spain. When army leader Lumey, one of the incompetent looney-tunes sent over by Elizabeth I to 'help' the Dutch in their struggle, discovers that Thyl has spared the lives of some monks, the condition upon which their city would surrender, he insists on having them hanged nevertheless. Thyl doesn't want to come back on his word given and opposes Lumey. Lumey then orders Thyl to be executed and he dies at the end of the second act. It is then that the 'Funeral Music' starts. In the following and final third act Thyl is revived again, this time as lasting icon of freedom which, says the composer, "will live for ever."